Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Gay Old Time, Part 1


Vesta Tilley as Burlington Bertie
(Image from www.chaplinalife.com)


I've just talked to Ma Pants. She's been to a local theatre revue. Ma Pants has herself a cosy theatre foursome and they go to almost every show staged by the two little theatre companies in their area. There's Ma Pants and Ellen, both in their 80s and a gay couple called Ray and Norm, who are in their 70s. They are known to each other respectively as 'the girls' and 'the boys'. They all have a preference for musicals. 

Pa Pants passed, as did Ellen's husband, some time ago but these merry widows like to throw on the pearls and kick up the heels occasionally. It's a kind of golden circle and has been doing the rounds of local grease-paint shanties for a number of years. "The boys' do the driving which is great as neither Ma Pants nor Ellen are all that keen on driving at night and one of the theatres is in a town half an hour away down a very dark road. 

I have never met 'the boys' because I have never visited in 'the season' but I do know that when Ma Pants wanted a recipe for an Easter Simnel Cake, she called them and they had one. It's a lovely arrangement and I'm so glad Ma Pants has it. She is not lacking in a social life but, like many widows, all her other activities involve only other single women. It's such a beneficial arrangement that I'm surprised no one has thought of setting up a networking service for gay men and widows who like the theatre but never come late, or perhaps they have.

The revue had a drag act which Ma Pants said was very good. I have an ideological problem with men in drag, especially since advancements in surgery have enabled some to distort the female form to extremes of caricature without attracting the barest semblance of criticism. This acting out of neurotic narcissism is successfully characterised as female when it is, in fact, male. 

It is the coloniser who is corrupt and not the colonised but drag has been skillful in cloaking itself in the respectability of mainstream gay culture. The first time I saw Little Britain, I thought of what Germaine Greer said in The Female Eunuch - women don't realise how much men hate them. I thought, if they didn't then, they should now. But how did we get to this point? 

I'm going to stop here because I thought I might try to overcome my disdain of the hideous blue court and watch the Australian Open for a bit. We will meet again tomorrow. By then, I might have worked out where I'm going with this...